The Vice President, Prof Yemi Osinbajo is calling for the creation of state police. He said the Federal Government couldn’t police the nation effectively from the centre. Prof Osinbajo spoke at the opening of the two-day national security summit organised by the National Assembly in Abuja last Thursday. What is not clear in this advocacy is whether the vice president expressed a personal opinion or the position of the government. One noticeable deficiency in this government is that key officers and party leaders sometime canvass divergent opinions. On a number of occasions, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, a national leader of the ruling party had offered suggestions in public on matters of national importance, which the party and government don’t seem to believe in.
What Prof Osinbajo is advocating, whether it is a personal opinion or that of the government, is restructuring of the nation’s police architecture. Restructuring that will ensure that we no longer have a police force that is big, yet small because it cannot offer adequate protection to the citizens. Restructuring of the police from the status quo that makes the governor of a state chief security officer only in name, while the state commissioner of police takes instructions from his boss, the Inspector General of Police. Isn’t it rather unfortunate that the vice president is just waking up to the reality that, “we cannot realistically police a country like Nigeria centrally from Abuja. State Police and other community policing methods are clearly the way to go.”
Isn’t this what many well-meaning Nigerians have been advocating for sometime now? This is one of the recommendations in the report of the 2014 National Conference organised by former president Goodluck Jonathan, but which President Muhammadu Buhari has left on the shelf to gather dust. State police is part and parcel of the restructuring of Nigeria being clamoured for since the inception of the Buhari administration, but to which it has turned deaf ears.
I had written several times in this column that the Buhari government was making a mistake of dumping the report of the National Conference. The government simply wanted to run on its own terms and own pace. But the reality in the last few weeks has shown that it does a lot of good to listen to wise counsel. Governance shouldn’t just be only about what you set out to accomplish when seeking the mandate of the people. It should also accommodate plans, suggestions and criticisms even from enemies about developments not earlier envisaged that crop up on the way. A government that chooses to listen to only itself ends up, not only losing its goodwill, but also its mandate.
One of the promises President Buhari made to Nigerians is to ensure security of lives and property. It has succeeded largely in tackling the challenge Boko Haram posed to the nation. But while it is flaunting the defeat of Boko Haram as an achievement, Nigerians no longer remember how helpless we were with the insurgent group before the current administration came to power. If the Buhari government had listened to wise counsel and implemented state and community police, maybe the herdsmen menace, which has now become an albatross for it, would not have festered.
But is it only in this instance that many of us who have been offering unsolicited advice to the government have been disappointed? No. President Buhari also promised to kill corruption before it would kill Nigeria. But how many of those who stole the country blind have been put behind the bars now? If this government doesn’t return after the 2019 election, will the suspects whose cases are in court not have the opportunity they so much crave to escape justice? Imagine how much more mileage the government would have gained in the fight against corruption had it implemented the recommendation of the 2014 confab that public officers charged to court for involvement in corrupt practices are presumed guilty as charged until proved innocent. The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) has been unable to secure guilty verdict in many high profile cases it is prosecuting because an accused is presumed innocent until proven guilty by the prosecution. If it were the other way round, not only would the accused have been easily convicted, a loud caution would have been sounded to everyone that once caught, the onus would be on them to prove their innocence.
There are other landmark recommendations in the Jonathan confab report that Buhari has jettisoned, far more reaching than the offerings made by the All Progressives Congress (APC) committee headed by the Kaduna State Governor, Mallam Nasir El-Rufai.
The Jonathan confab also recommended a modified presidential system of government, combining attributes of the parliamentary and presidential models. Under the system, the president would pick his deputy from the legislature. Lawmakers are to serve on part-time basis. This recommendation has the potential to reduce cost of governance and reduce the superiority contest and friction, which has been the bane of the current republic.
While President Buhari claimed he is a democrat and president for all Nigerians, the actions and inactions of his government clearly show a disconnect with what Nigerians are yearning for. Buhari is working hard to deliver on its promises, but Nigerians expect much more than what the president and his government are offering. At the time Nigerians’ clamour for restructuring was strident, the APC National Chairman, Chief John Odigie-Oyegun said it was not the government’s priority. The APC has now come up with its recommendations. But the danger with not acting on time is that its action is now being perceived as deceptive, a mere vote-seeking gimmick.
Another failing of the government is that President Buhari has not shown enough empathy in instances where herdsmen have been attacking and killing innocent citizens particularly in Benue State. As it’s usual with the government to dismiss matters that Nigerians judge it by as unimportant, the Presidency has justifications: ‘The president had condemned the killings. It wasn’t the first time that herdsmen had killed citizens. They had done so in other states and so the president didn’t have to visit Benue State.’
Nigerians want a president who would show empathy. They want a president who would not only visit scenes of mindless killings, but also declare enough is enough at the spot, not in Aso Rock. Very soon the blunder of the president not visiting Benue, as with other matters that this government had chosen to dilly-dally when prompt action was required would show.